As 2020/21 champions of the FA Women’s Championship, Leicester City have replaced Bristol City in the top flight and are currently preparing to compete against the best sides in the women’s game.
Ahead of the big kick-off in September, here is a closer analysis of three opponents that the Foxes will face during the 2021/22 campaign…
The league's top scorer in 2020/21, Sam Kerr admires the WSL trophy after retaining the title on the final day of the season.
Last Season: 1st
Home Venue: Kingsmeadow, Kingston upon Thames
WSL Titles: 4
Manager: Emma Hayes
Chelsea were the dominant force once again last season as they secured their second consecutive WSL title - and fourth in total - finishing two points ahead of Manchester City.
The title race went down to the final day but a 5-0 home victory over Reading ensured the league trophy would be staying in the capital for another year.
Emma Hayes’ side lost just one league match in 2020/21, winning 18 of their 22 fixtures across the campaign, including a huge 9-0 triumph against Bristol City in the opening home game of the season.
Sam Kerr was the WSL’s top scorer with 21 goals and also Chelsea’s leading markswoman across all formats with 27 to her name.
The Chelsea manager was named 2020/21 FA WSL Manager of the Year award after guiding Chelsea to a league and cup double.
Success also came in the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup, which the Blues claimed for the second year running by beating Bristol City 6-0 in the final, having also dispatched West Ham United by the same scoreline in the last four.
In the UEFA Women’s Champions League, Chelsea reached the final of the competition for the first time but were comprehensively beaten 4-0 by Barcelona in Gothenburg.
After winning the Community Shield in August 2020, the Londoners went on to progress into the quarter-finals of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup, which will be completed in the upcoming season.
Dutch defender Aniek Nouwen became the club’s first summer signing when she made the move from PSV in May, while Jamie-Lee Napier has departed at the end of her contract.
Everton secured their highest position in the Barclays FA Women's Super League since promotion in 2017.
Last Season: 5th
Home Venue: Walton Hall Park, Liverpool
WSL Titles: 0
Manager: Willie Kirk
A summer of significant investment saw Everton look to challenge at the top end of the WSL table during 2020/21. They narrowly improved on their sixth-place position from the previous campaign, finishing fifth.
The Toffees got off to a flying start, winning their first four games of the season, with notable away victories over Bristol City (4-0) and Aston Villa (6-0).
Willie Kirk’s side would score at least four without reply on three more occasions, beating Birmingham City 4-0 and Brighton & Hove Albion 5-0 away from home after another 4-0 triumph over Bristol City.
The goals were shared out evenly across the season, with Simone Magill and Izzy Christiansen ending as joint-top scorers on six goals.
Izzy Christiansen enjoyed a successful start to her second spell with the Toffees.
Meanwhile, a second-place finish in their FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup group wasn’t enough to progress into the knockout stages, despite finishing above Manchester United and Liverpool in a tricky pool that also contained Manchester City.
Although the Merseyside club’s Vitality Women’s FA Cup journey came to an end in the fifth round, they did play the final of the 2019/20 competition on 1 November, 2020, but were beaten 3-1 by Manchester City in extra-time.
The Club have already made several moves in the summer transfer market, bringing in West Ham United midfielder Kenza Dali, as well as Swedish pair Anna Anvegård and Nathalie Björn from FC Rosengård.
England international forward Toni Duggan also returns after eight years away, following spells with Manchester City, Barcelona and most recently, Atlético Madrid.
Manchester City Women
Ex-Everton pair Alex Greenwood and Chloe Kelly enjoyed impressive first seasons at the Club.
Last Season: 2nd
Home Venue: Academy Stadium, Manchester
WSL Titles: 1
Manager: Gareth Taylor
In many ways, Gareth Taylor’s first season in charge of Manchester City mirrored Nick Cushing’s final campaign. The Citizens narrowly missed out on the Barclays FA Women’s Super League title to Chelsea and fell short in the knockout stages of both the UEFA Women’s Champions League and the domestic League Cup.
There was, however, some silverware to celebrate as City overcame Everton 3-1 after extra-time in the rearranged 2019/20 Vitality Women’s FA Cup Final, with goals from Sam Mewis, Georgia Stanway and Janine Beckie.
The Manchester side are also through to the quarter-finals of the 2020/21 competition, to be played in September, where they will face Leicester City for the second consecutive season, following wins over Aston Villa and West Ham United with an aggregate score of 13-1.
And the second-place finish in the WSL has secured another season of European football, hoping to improve on reaching the quarter-finals in 2020/21, when City lost to eventual Champions League winners Barcelona.
Manchester City Women
Celebrating winning the Vitality Women's FA Cup at Wembley Stadium in November 2020.
Like Chelsea, City lost just one league fixture all season – and it was against the west London side in October 2020 - while their biggest victories were secured at home to Bristol City (8-1) and Aston Villa (7-0) and away to Brighton & Hove Albion (7-1).
Forwards Chloe Kelly and Ellen White both netted 10 WSL goals, and 15 in all competitions, finishing as City’s joint-top goalscorers, ahead of American midfielder Mewis, who managed an impressive 14 in 29 City appearances.
Mewis has since moved back to the USA, alongside compatriot Rose Lavelle, with Megan Campbell, Tyler Toland, Aoife Mannion and Lee Geum-min among the other departures.
Arrivals have come in the form of Arsenal youngster Ruby Mace, Barcelona’s Vicky Losada and Jamaican forward Khadija Shaw from Bordeaux.
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